Warning from Ohio: Don’t be misled by early Election Day results

FILE - This Oct. 29, 2012 file photo shows Vice President Joe Biden speaking in front of 'Vote Early' sign during a campaign rally at the Covelli Centre, Monday, in Youngstown, Ohio. One week before a close election, superstorm Sandy has confounded the presidential race, halting early voting in many areas, forcing both candidates to suspend campaigning and leading many to ponder whether the election might be postponed. It could take days to restore electricity to all of the more than 8 million homes and businesses that lost power when the storm pummeled the East Coast. That means it’s possible that power could still be out in some states on Election Day _ a major problem for areas that rely on electronic voting machines. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

FILE - This Oct. 29, 2012 file photo shows Vice President Joe Biden speaking in front of "Vote Early" sign during a campaign rally at the Covelli Centre, Monday, in Youngstown, Ohio. One week before a close election, superstorm Sandy has confounded the presidential race, halting early voting in many areas, forcing both candidates to suspend campaigning and leading many to ponder whether the election might be postponed. It could take days to restore electricity to all of the more than 8 million homes and businesses that lost power when the storm pummeled the East Coast. That means it’s possible that power could still be out in some states on Election Day _ a major problem for areas that rely on electronic voting machines. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It’s very possible that the nation will be looking closely at early poll results from Ohio next Tuesday to see who that state chose for president, and therefore, who won the presidential election.

But the early results may not be conclusive, or even very helpful, according to Ohio Secretary of State John Husted, who held a news conference to outline how results will be tallied and distributed on election night.

After polls close, Ohio will begin the evening by releasing the results of absentee ballots it received before Election Day, Husted said, at around 8:30 p.m. About 1.3 million absentee ballots have been sent out to voters — and about 72 percent have already been cast, he said.

Though those absentee votes may imply the election is going one way, those results could be completely turned around over the next few hours, as results from in-person polling come in. The Secretary of State’s office will release results from big counties every 15 minutes, medium-sized counties every 30 minutes, and small counties every hour.

If the election is close, America will have to wait 10 more days for the final results. That’s because Ohio, unlike most other states, has a law that stipulates that the Secretary of State must wait 10 days before counting provisional ballots and late-arriving absentee ballots (all absentee ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 5 to count).

An automatic recount can’t happen until Nov. 27, Husted said. An automatic recount is triggered in Ohio when the result margin is less than 0.25 percent, or about 14,000 votes in an election in which 5.6 million votes are cast (5.7 million Ohioans voted in 2008).

Husted has been a controversial figure this election season, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block a pair of rulings that would have required polls to be open three days before the election and fighting an advocacy group over whether voters who show up at the wrong polling station should be allowed to vote. An appeals court ruled on Husted’s behalf on the polling station issue Wednesday, and he said there are no more pending legal challenges in Ohio.

In the news conference Thursday afternoon, he continuously emphasized Ohio’s efforts to make sure everyone in the state can vote.

Ohio is a state that “bends over backwards to create all these conveniences for voters,” he said. “We have options for voters in our state that do not exist in many of our border states.”

Ohioans have 750 hours to vote by mail, 246 hours to vote in person and 13 hours to vote on Election Day, he said.

“Ohio is a leader in voter access,” he said.

Husted, a Republican, doesn’t think that the absentee and provisional voting rules will be a problem on Nov. 6. When asked whether he thought the state would be able to declare a winner in the presidential contest on election night, he said, “My expectation is that we will.”

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